In June 2013, UEFA's referee committee members will accomplish the biannual modification of their referee category system. Some Elite Development Group referees may get their hopes up to advance to the highest category in June, i.e. the Elite Group. At the same time, many of them could potentially face a demotion to First Group. A few thoughts on that are issued in the following, since the decisive stages of UEFA's club competitions, Champions League and Europa League, are already completed.
|Polish official Pawel Gil (c) ZIMBIO|
Basically, there are only three referees who could expect a pending demotion to First Group. One of them could be English Martin Atkinson, who showed several weaknesses in his UCL matches between Spartak and Fenerbahçe as well as between Lille and Bayern München. Thus, he did not get any further match in the knockout stages of both competitions (the only opportunity would be a semifinal or a final that are still to come).
At the same time, Olegário Benquerença of Portugal was injured for a long time and came back in UCL in November and now also in a UEL quarterfinal where he showed solid or good performances. So I could imagine he stays in Elite.
A shaky candidate could be Italian Paolo Tagliavento, who has not his best season and awaits pressure from behind, as Orsato is advancing quickly (see below).
> prediction: Martin Atkinson to First Group
From ED to Elite
During the past two and a half seasons, Serbian official Milorad Mažić has been observed by six members of the referee committee including Pierluigi Collina, UEFA's chief officer in terms of refereeing, and showed pretty good performances during the entire season 2012/13. He additionally received his first UCL appointments, among others for remarkable duels like Borussia Dortmund - Man. City or the Round of 16 second leg bwteen Paris S.G. and Valencia CF. At the start of April 2013, Collina then assessed him in a UEL quarterfinal between Tottenham and Basel, where he showed a convincing performance. Based on that, the committee assigned him to take control over a semifinal's first leg in Istanbul as well, where managed to overall convince, too. Furthermore, he still is on the short list for 2014 FIFA World Cup, so that there should be really nothing in Mažić's way to the top class of referees.
In my opinion, the three referees who are, besides the Serbian, the most probable candidates for a promotion to Elite are Turkish Fırat Aydınus, Croatia's Ivan Bebek and French referee Antony Gautier. All three made a huge progress during the last season, got big matches and were observed by important referee observers. Their performances indicate they have the potential to be promising future Elite referees, but also revealed smaller areas for improvement, e.g. Aydınus made a blatant mistake in last week's UEL match in Moscow. Comparing their level to Mažić, they should still get some time in ED. Germany's two ED officials Deniz Aytekin and Manuel Gräfe could be hidden candidates for a promotion, although it is unsure whether Gräfe may stay in ED for further six months, as he has already spent a lot of time in it.
> prediction: Milorad Mažić to Elite
From ED to First Group
As for demotions, one can predict Spaniard David Fernández Borbalán, who showed rather weak performances before his long and still existing absence due to injury. Same counts for Bas Nijhuis from the Netherlands, who allowed himself too many crucial mistakes and controversial decisions in his matches. Consequently, he was completely left out from the knockout phase, too. As Peter Rasmussen has announced his retirement, his place becomes free as well.
> prediction: David Fernández Borbalán and Bas Nijhuis to First Group
From First Group to ED
Based on the previous prognoses, there would be four possible places in ED that could be taken by current First Group officials.
Pawel Gil of Poland has been observed by multiple relevant observers and showed basically solid performances in e.g. the UCL match between Paris S.G. against Dinamo Zagreb or Zenit St.Petersburg against Basel in UEL. It could be time to promote him, also reinforced by his nomination for the important final tournament of UEFA's Under-21 competition.
Furthermore, Russian Sergei Karasev has totally convinced in all his matches in this UCL and UEL season. Many important observers, correct crucial decisions such as three penalties in Gladbach - Lazio have characterized his progress. Hence, he should be a totally sure bet for a promotion. His refereeing and management skills are at the moment more advanced than a lot of ED referees' ones, I would dare to say.
As a replacement for Fernández Borbalán, there could be a promotion for Antonio Mateu Lahoz of Spain. Good performances in very important matches and observers like former referee committee member Iouri Baskakov or Bertrand Layec reinforce this prediction.
Finally, Matej Jug from Slovenia probably is at the borderline between First and ED. In his last match in UEL, where he was observed by committee member Bo Karlsson, he however showed lacks of control in one situation. His promotion could follow, but I think UEFA will wait and see how he will do in Israel at UEFA Under-21 EURO.
> prediction: Pawel Gil, Sergei Karasev, Antonio Mateu Lahoz and perhaps also Matej Jug to ED
In the light of the aforesaid, the two highest categories will look like that if I am right...:
Olegário Benquerença (POR), Felix Brych (GER), Cüneyt Çakır (TUR), Mark Clattenburg (ENG), William Collum (SCO), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Viktor Kassai (HUN), Pavel Královec (CZE), Björn Kuipers (NED), Stéphane Lannoy (FRA), Milorad Mažić (SRB), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Pedro Proença (POR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Damir Skomina (SVN), Wolfgang Stark (GER), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Craig Thomson (SCO), Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP), Howard Webb (ENG)
Elite Development Group
Fırat Aydınus (TUR), Deniz Aytekin (GER), Ivan Bebek (CRO), Antony Gautier (FRA), Pawel Gil (POL), Manuel Gräfe (GER), Tom Harald Hagen (NOR), Ovidiu Alin Hategan (ROU), (Matej Jug (SVN)), Sergei Karasev (RUS), Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP), Daniele Orsato (ITA), Aleksandar Stavrev (MKD), Marijo Strahonja (CRO), István Vad (HUN)